Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery
Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery is right in the Corn Belt, located in Swisher, Iowa. Not only does it have endless Iowa-grown grapes, but it also has never-ending bushels of corn straight from our fertile Midwestern soil. This ensures that there’s a personal touch to all of the wine and spirits at this place. They also age their whiskeys in a non-temperature controlled climate to make sure it tastes as natural as possible. Whether enjoying your favorite bottle of wine or some smooth dark liquor, Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery is a great place to unwind.
Located off of Fleur Drive, the Jasper Winery hosts weddings, tastings, and events. The Groben family owns the winery — they’ve been running it for almost ten years. Since everything is locally grown, their philosophy manifests itself in Iowa grapes in every bottle or glass they produce. That doesn’t mean they are behind on the times, of course — they use an innovative process to determine which grape varieties to use during fermentation and how to age the wine once it’s been barreled. Their dry wines are aged exclusively in French or American Oak casks.
This winery offers a variety of different events that allow wine lovers to explore its grounds. Choose the “VIP Tasting Tour” for a 90-minute educational tasting that will teach you how to properly taste wine while you learn about Iowa history ($15), or the “Wine and Chocolate Pairing” session to learn how to best to take your chocolate with your wine ($15). The winery also offers a Bachelorette special for bridal parties that includes your own table, five bottles of wine, two cheese plates, and chocolates to share for only $100.
The tasting room at Summerset Winery is open every day Tuesday to Sunday all year long. If you want to get in on a Monday though, make an appointment. They boast friendly and knowledgeable staff who is down-to-earth enough to understand amateurs and wine aficionados alike. Their formal wine tasting and tour package costs $20, and includes a taste of six wines and a cheese plate. This also includes a look at the wine cellars and a branded wine glass to take home with you. For a slightly larger fee, tours can be private and include your very own dedicated winery representative to show you the wine tasting ropes. It’s great for big groups of friends, but the undivided attention is also useful for curious first-timers too.
Tassel Ridge Winery
The Tassel Ridge Winery offers many events aside from your traditional tasting and wine tour. Each week, they host a wine and small plates event, a wood fired pizza day, a wine and pasta night, and a series of other less regular special events. A hosted tour of the winery is free and includes a winemaking process tour as well as a tour of the grounds. Here, you’ll learn vineyard planting techniques and get a glimpse of the harvesting process, followed by the processing, fermenting, blending, and bottling of wine. If you’re with a group, you can book a ride on the Vineyard Grapemobile, an aptly named open-air trailer that will take you through the vineyard as well. It’s a great way learn all about the vineyard’s history and how to harvest grapes in Iowa’s semi-cold climate.
Fox Ridge Winery
If you’re willing to travel about forty-five minutes outside of Des Moines, the Fox Ridge Winery is one local spot you won’t want to miss. It’s located in gorgeous Northern Tama country just northwest of Traer, Iowa. Though the Fox Ridge Winery doesn’t offer tours, they make up for it in entertainment options. It’s the perfect place to go to enjoy live music on the lawn while enjoying their robust wine selection. Their wines are made exclusively from grapes from the region, and they encourage patrons to wander the grounds as they please. This is the place to go if you’re looking for a more independently led experience that allows you to choose your own itinerary.
La Vida Loca Winery
The folks at La Vida know how to tell it like it is, and their wines don’t hide behind any pretenses either. They offer four wines, each variety harvested and bottled using the freshest grapes for superior quality. Their La Vida Loca Red variety won a silver medal in the Mid-American wine competition this year. Though they don’t offer winery tours, they hold feature evenings where guests are served smoked pork loin or smoked St. Louis ribs. This more than makes up for it, especially when paired with the perfect wine. Be sure to check out their Murder Mystery Dinner nights, which involve an action-packed dinner theater experience and the opportunity to discover how loca la vida truly is.